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Freezing weather heats up demand for down products

By Shi Jing (China Daily)

10:04, February 15, 2012

SHANGHAI - Down product companies in Zhejiang province are working flat-out to provide warm products to customers in Europe and other places where the weather has been bone-chilling.

Maolong Wuzhong Down Products Co Ltd in Shaoxing city received 32 orders, worth more than $1 million, during the first three days of February alone. It usually takes the company a month to receive that many orders.

"We're running three shifts a day as we're short of labor," said Mao Fengwei, general manager of the company, which mainly exports to countries such as Italy, France, Denmark and Poland. It ships eiderdown raw materials used to make down quilts.

"Actually, the trend started in January. Our orders are up 25 percent year-on-year," said Mao.

"Besides Europe, Japan, the United States and South Africa, all of which are undergoing unprecedented cold snaps, have sent us urgent orders for down products," added Mao.

Although it might seem that the most orders would come from Europe, where a deep freeze has made headlines around the world, Mao said orders from Japan constitute the biggest part of the total. Japanese orders account for more than one-third of the orders, and those from Europe were at less than one-third.

"The extremely cold weather in Europe is just one reason that we are almost working our heads off these days.

"We took part in a home textile exhibition in Frankfurt from January 11 to 14, during which we did not take any orders. After we came back on January 15, it was almost Spring Festival time and we were off for a week or so.

"With such a long period of taking no orders, it's not that surprising that we would get a flood of orders as soon as our production lines restarted," said Mao.

Zhejiang Nuozhi Finery Co Ltd primarily specializes in leather clothing. It also makes down jackets. Although down jackets are not the company's major products, orders are up 15 percent since the beginning of this month, said Wang Xiangjin, a sales manager.

"Most of our products are exported to Germany and Italy. The increase started as early as the beginning of this year," said Wang.

Li Jie, an analyst at Everbright Securities Co Ltd, told the Shenzhen-based Securities Times that no makers of down jackets had achieved a stock market listing so far.

"Apart from down, polyester fiber makes up most of the raw materials in down jackets. But these listed companies' shares aren't performing well.

"Although demand for down jackets is high right now, it will not help the performance of raw material companies," Li told the newspaper.

The death toll from Europe's cold snap has exceeded 600, more than one-third of those fatalities have been in Russia alone, AFP reported on Monday.

The United Nations' World Meteorological Organization said on Feb 7 said that the cold spell would ease slowly this week.

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